Saturday, June 23, 2018
Sports

USF Bulls might be tough college football coaching job to fill

Just a couple of days removed from USF firing Skip Holtz as its head football coach, the rumor mill keeps churning out the names of who could become the third coach in the program's 16-year history.

We're hearing about hotshot coordinators and small-school sensations. We're hearing about up-and-comers or down-and-outers. We're hearing about coaches with hopeful futures and those with mediocre pasts.

Don't expect a sexy hire here, folks. At the moment, USF is a lousy job.

Put it this way: the Skip Holtz of three years ago would not be interested in the current USF opening.

Part of that is Holtz's fault. He took a decent — not nearly as good as USF fans like to think, but still decent — program and ran it into a smelly mess.

USF's bigger issue is college football played a giant game of "Musical Chairs" and the Bulls ended up without a seat in a major conference. They are stuck in the ever-weakening Big East, a crummy team in a cruddy conference. What sounds enticing about that?

Here are some more of the issues USF is dealing with and where it might have to go in its search for a new coach:

Jobs are plentiful in college football

There used to be a time when head coaching jobs in college were hard to come by. Coaches would line up for any opening because who knew when, or if, the next offer would come? Not anymore. Impatience has taken over the sport. Jobs open up all the time. Really good ones.

There have been 16 openings in the past few weeks alone, including big-boy jobs such as Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, Cal, Boston College, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina State and Purdue.

Remember when the big programs would go decades without a coaching change? In just the past few years, we've seen coaching changes at some of college football's most storied programs, including Florida, FSU, Miami, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Southern Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA. Such openings led to other openings as dominoes fell.

A young candidate such as Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn or Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart or Florida International coach Mario Cristobal might be better off waiting to see if a better opening comes along than settling for USF.

USF is too risky for a non-destination job

Coaches see USF as a stepping stone to a bigger and better job. Heck, back when the Big East was still a big deal, coaches at programs better than USF didn't stay put. Brian Kelly went from Cincinnati to Notre Dame. Rich Rodriguez went from West Virginia to Michigan. Greg Schiano left Rutgers and Bobby Petrino left Louisville, both for the NFL.

When Holtz took the USF job, it was in good shape. Now that the program needs a major overhaul, it might be too much of a risk. If your goal is to end up at, say, Auburn or Nebraska or Oklahoma someday, USF might have just gone from a stepping stone to a road block. Think about it, will Holtz's next job be better or worse than the one he just had?

A candidate might worry that his inability to turn around a dilapidated program in a so-so conference could be a career-killer.

The patience might be gone at USF

If USF athletic director Doug Woolard offered me the job, I'd have two questions. The first would be about the future of the Big East and USF's conference plans. The second would be, "How much time do I have to turn this thing around?''

Quite frankly, I'd be a little nervous about job security. Holtz didn't even get a team full of his own recruits before he was blown out of town. He took over a solid program and was dismissed after three years, as well as six months after he received the affirmation of a contract extension.

Would the new coach have more than three years to fix a program in way worse shape than when Holtz took over?

Final thought

USF would argue that it remains a great job.

The university is respected. The facilities are good. The market is big. The weather is superb. The local high school talent is outstanding. The pay is competitive. The conference situation could change. A weakened conference is ripe for the taking.

But in the end, I think the only coaches interested in USF are those desperate for a head coaching job. That would be out-of-work has-beens looking to get back into the game, assistants who are tired of being assistants or a young coach simply bored and antsy in his current job.

But an established coach with a solid resume? A really sharp coach with a bright future? A coach like the one Skip Holtz was three years ago?

Don't bet on it.

That seems a little out of USF's league.

tom jones' two cents

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